Friday, December 27, 2013
My favorites were The Dressmaker's Doll by Agatha Christie, that master of mystery, and The Doll's Ghost by F. Marion Crawford. In the first, a large doll seems to be changing locations in a dressmaker's shop without assistance from any humans, thoroughly disturbing those who work in the shop. It has a delightful ending I didn't see coming. In the second, the ghost of a doll visits the man who repaired her as he frets over his missing human child.
The delightful and poignant Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen is also included. Not all of the stories are genuinely creepy, but some of them are.
Scattered throughout the book are delightful drawings of little girls and their dolls. It is worth flipping through just for the art. A definite recommend for any fan of dolls, or anyone creeped out by them. You can find it at the Galesburg Public Library in the fiction section under Manley, Sean.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It is very readable, but I was put off by some plot points meant to confuse the issue that were never explained to my satisfaction. The text is nicely atmospheric and the mystery imaginative. There are some nice character touches; I particularly liked the character of a recent widow, Katherine, and her building of dioramas. The narrative goes back and forth between the early 1900s and the present day and includes chapters from a secret diary written in 1908 which is known to be missing key pages.
The Winter People reminded me a bit of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (which I also wanted to like more than I did). If you like a strange tale with touches of folklore and other-worldly mystery, you might enjoy The Winter People.
I read an advance reading copy of The Winter People. It is scheduled to be published in February 2014.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Although she is green, she is well read, and she does not consider herself a complete innocent. She is independent and headstrong, and on a walk unchaperoned to pick berries, she runs into the rake who owns the estate next to her family's. He is not even a reformed rake, but they quickly discover they have sympathetic minds and become good friends, to the horror of all who know her.
Lord Damerel has never seduced an innocent and never means to, which puts him in a quandry when he finds himself falling in love with Venetia. Like all good reformed or reforming rakes, he means to give her up for her own good.
Although a little draggy in the middle, the plot takes unexpected twists and arrives at a delightful conclusion. I recommend Venetia for any reader who likes an old-fashioned, gentle romance in the manner of Jane Austen.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Major Robert Kurland has returned to his village home after being gravely injured at Waterloo. He is still recovering and unable to walk. Miss Lucy Harrington, eldest daughter of the rector, is frustrated by her role as the female head of household since her mother is dead, She is stuck looking after the other children and the household affairs and is taken for granted by her father, but she does enjoy her visits to check in on Major Kurland. Then a little mystery to solve engages them both.
I can't describe this book as a mystery-romance, but the groundwork was laid for a romance in future entries in the series. I figured out the "mystery" fairly early, but I enjoyed the character development, historical descriptions, and dialogue. This is a slow moving book to relax into, not a fast-paced adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
As an ex-proofreader, I lament the lack of proofreading these days. I saw a number of confusing errors in this book. For example, at one point (p. 265) a character named Daisy says, "Daisy tried to break things off with him in a letter before he came back, but from all accounts, he didn't take it very well." It should say Mary instead of Daisy; this is an easy mistake for an author to make, but a good editorial review should have caught it.
I had just finished the most recent book in Anna Dean's Dido Kent series when I saw this on the library's shelf and grabbed it to read. It's not quite as good as the Dean series, but I was entertained by it and look forward to the next book in the series. I recommend it to lovers of gentle Regency mystery or romance.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Bryson, Bill. One Summer: America, 1927. New York: Doubleday, 2013. 453 p.
Bill Bryson’s One Summer is one of those rare popular histories that, with its rich, nostalgic vignettes, could single-handedly seduce readers into more in-depth studies. In light, engaging prose, Bryson takes readers on a chronological journey through one of the most memorable summers in our nation’s history. In 1927, Bryson reminds us, Americans boasted of an internationally-famous aviator (Charles Lindbergh), baseball players (Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig), tennis player (Bill Tilden), and boxer (Jack Dempsey). The primacy of so many Yanks was important collectively as well, since “Americans in the 1920s had grown up in a world in which most of the most important things happened in Europe.” However, in One Summer, the stories of the not-so famous, or not-so remembered, perhaps, make the tale especially engaging. Richard Byrd’s feats of aviation, Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray’s murderous peccadillo, and the teenaged Philo Farnsworth’s development of that other national pastime – television – all make appearances, enriching the more familiar stories of flying and baseball that anchor the work.
In retrospect, the summer of trans-Atlantic flights and home run battles seems a bright, quaint spot just before the fall, and Bryson does well to examine the questionable banking practices leading to the 1929 market crash. But this was a summer, too, of obsessions: prohibition and killer “gin,” of Al Capone, Percy Fawcett’s ill-fated Amazonian search for the Lost City of Z, the nationwide promotion of eugenics, and anarchist bombings. One Summer gives readers a glimpse of the macabre, dark side of the glittering 1920s, exploring complexities of the era with the readability of a best-selling novel.
One Summer provoked a fustian and aggrieved review by David Brinkley in the Washington Post’s pages, while David Shribman of the Boston Globe called into question Bryson’s characterization of Calvin Coolidge. Brinkley’s poorly researched polemic leaves propriety and light at naught, calling into question both the temper and validity of his comments, while Shribman’s lone negative remark relies on a fairly recent and mostly unexamined reading of Coolidge’s legacy. Other than these, however, the work has been well-received by the academy and armchair historians alike.
Bryson’s aim in One Summer is to paint a picture of a singularly “extraordinary summer,” and with few exceptions, he succeeds. The work moves handily from character to character, and though Bryson struggles to close these stories neatly in the epilogue, the larger challenge is contextualizing the fascinating stories and alternately lovable and despicable cast of seeming thousands. For readers who wish to explore the copious primary and secondary sources cited, there is a 119-page online appendix of notes to the work, but one might wish too for a “recommended reading” section to round out the era. Among a handful of scholarly monographs, Lynn Dumenil’s The Modern Temper: American Society and Culture in the 1920s serves well to help sate the hungry reader whose appetite is whetted here. Even alone, One Summer should make its way onto the to-read list of anyone with a passing interest in the history and culture of the inter-war years. Put on some Hammerstein, Kern, and Gershwin, pour yourself a French 75, and settle in for a fascinating romp through the summer of 1927. - Kristy Howell
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Rosie Project is a clever and entertaining book. Although it's pretty clear how the romance is going to end, it still took some surprise turns and fully engaged me as a reader.
It was not a perfect book for me for a few reasons. At the beginning of the book, I didn't much like Don, Rosie, or Don's best friend, the philandering Gene. Eventually I got past this but it did slow down my enjoyment of the book in the early chapters.
The book is narrated by Don, and I was reminded of a criticism I read of The Big Bang Theory. The author complained that we are not laughing with the geeky nerds of the popular television show, but at them. I didn't agree with everything the author of that criticism said but thought some legitimate points were made, and they apply to The Rosie Project as well. There are many times when Don says or does something that we as readers are supposed to find funny that Don would not.
Also, in chapter eleven, Rosie convinces Don to leave a cafe without paying the bill. I believe we are supposed to see this as a sign of progress in Don, that he can stop being so rigid and such a rule follower now that he has met Rosie, but in my opinion anyone who leaves a cafe without paying the bill is just a jerk. In no way can that be considered a sign of growth, and on top of that Rosie is a part-time bartender and I did not buy that she'd be willing to stiff a waiter just because it was convenient. (There was no problem at the cafe or with the waiter.)
Still, I found it highly enjoyable and readable. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes The Big Bang Theory or quirky romance with a satisfying ending.
Tofield has also published a few books featuring Simon's Cat. At the Galesburg Public Library, we have some ancient Garfield the Cat books that are still being checked out and I thought some Simon's Cat books might make good replacements.
This is a lovely book, containing beautiful color drawings with so much detail, and it is so clear that Simon Tofield also knows and owns cats. Each drawing stands alone, but all on the subject of the title: cat v. world. Many kinds of adorable animals also make appearances. This book should appeal to almost any cat lover.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
This is the fourth book and the best yet. This is a gentle series of romance and mystery. It is perfect for those who love Jane Austen. The romance is mostly of the meaningful glance and ardent touching of hands variety. The mystery is a set of little puzzles to be worked out.
I'm not sure how this book would come across to someone who hasn't read the first three books, but if the series intrigues a reader at all I recommend starting at the beginning anyway. I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
The book explores a new way to fight wars. It does this by pulling you into the lives of Troy Pearce, a brilliant, trained CIA operative and his company Pearce Systems.
If you enjoy thrillers that explore the developing world of technology this is truly a roller coaster read!! It is 413 pages of "what next..nooo.... now what...." I greatly enjoyed reading this and look forward to more books by this author.It also left me thinking about how countries use technology to fight their battles.
Would this be a better way or maybe not? I hope you read this book
it indirectly guides the reader to consider issues of right and wrong.
Friday, November 1, 2013
It's not a perfect book. The first 80 pages or so are very slow moving, and I wondered how I'd ever make it through 560 pages. The author really sets us up to dislike the heroine Nora. She is enchanted by the Faitoren (the author's version of the Fae) and spends her time in a fog being pushed around by them. It got old, and I thought, well that would never happen to ME! I would never be captured and enchanted by fairies and married to a monster! It made it hard for me to relate to Nora.
However, once Nora escapes the book got very good. The characters kept me guessing. Nora's relationship with the other main character is complex. There is a disturbing fact from the wizard Arundiel's past that is true - it's not a falsehood or exaggeration that people tell Nora to caution her against the wizard. I really was not sure where the plot was going.
I've seen The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic compared to Discovery of Witches, but I enjoyed it so much more. Nora doesn't need a magical powerful man to fall in love with and hand her life over to. She is a strong independent woman who manages to forge relationships while hanging on to that independence and her own spirit.
I recommend this to any fans of adult fantasy - just keep going until Nora escapes. I found it totally worth it.
The end was a bit anti-climactic, but that's because we were set up for a sequel. I am very much looking forward to one!
Note: It took me a long time to get through it, but I read an advance reader copy.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
This book for me, was one of those reads that you needed a break from. When you were pretty sure it couldn't get worse...it did.
Despite all of this I still wanted to finish it.
If you like to be challenged this is one of those kind of books. It leaves you wondering.
I found it interesting to think about how he has brothers and sisters yet we really never think about that aspect of Ben's life.
However, this book was close to 300 pages. I think it could have been more fascinating if condensed to 150 pages. I had a difficult time getting through this and I enjoy historical non-fiction.
The enjoyment was much less then the effort to read this book.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Monday, October 14, 2013
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Beth Risk is the girl no one takes seriously, especially given her past. With her home life quickly falling apart, her uncle Scott Risk, a major league baseball player, moves her in with his family in Groveton. Surprised that she is making a life in Groveton that she likes, Beth tries to make herself believe that she doesn't deserve or want it. Through all the struggles, she falls for Ryan Stone, the one she told herself she'd never get involved with more than she has to.
Ryan Stone's family is one of the families that have a big influence in the town. Ryan and his friends are part of their high school's baseball team... and they love dares. When one dare makes Ryan's life change, he finds himself trying for things he never thought he wanted, including Beth Risk.
Dare You To by Katie McGarry is a very good book that has some very real-life teen problems in it. Surprisingly, my favorite characters are supporting, Scott and Lacy. I like how even when he ran from his life before, Scott still looked for Beth and kept his promise to her. Lacy doesn't care about what people say about Beth and she doesn't mind about Beth not talking about her past; she still makes it a point to try to rekindle the friendship they used to have.
Dare You To is available now.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Derek Fitzpatrick, on the outside, is an all-around "bad boy," and trying to make himself believe it. While trying to keep a facade of not caring about anything, he's pulled into a life that he doesn't want with his stepmother as she moves them to Chicago. All he wanted was to forget the past and not look for anything to tie him down to one place. Can he go for what he wants when he meets Ashtyn?
Ashtyn Parker is the kicker of her high school football team, and the only girl. After getting voted Captain for her senior year, her team's quarterback goes MIA for a few days. When she meets Derek, the one guy she shouldn't want, things change. The only way to let things figure themselves out is if she can let herself trust Derek. Can she put her heart and her team all on the line?
I think Simone Elkeles, once again, nailed another brilliant series. I love how she seems like she's going to do one thing with the story and twists it with a compelling complication. My favorite thing about this book is how much creativity and personality she put into the characters. My favorite characters are Derek and his grandmother. I just find that I can relate to them.
Once you work through the language the characters become interesting. There are many characters which is to be expected it is a book containing 536 pages.
This is a book for those readers who like historical fiction. It puts the reader into this violent time of plots, double plots, and a young girl trying to find her place in this world.
I found it challenging at times, but I am glad that I read it.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Now imagine yourself living in the Himalayan Mountains, using that "sight" to walk along narrow ledges daily just to get water.
This book is about two Doctors who decided to end preventable blindness starting in Nepal and moving out into African, and South east Asian countries. It shows that the world can be changed with dedication and much hard work.
I enjoyed reading this! It left me thinking what am I doing to make my world a better place?
Penelope, or “Pen,” is a 17-year-old heroine who has lost everything important in her life, including her family and her home in the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The only thing she has left is her favorite book The Odyssey. And like the Odysseus in the epic poem, Pen has to go out on epic journey in search for a home. During her journey she has to face her greatest fears and her strongest loves. Francesca Lia Block makes this beautiful tale come alive with her fantastic writing style, as she takes across the post-apocalyptic wasteland of what is left of Los Angeles through the eyes of the brave young Penelope. While the plot may not be entirely realistic, it does make for a compulsive reading. The book is a page turner and will have you enthralled with the dystopian world the author has written for you. The author has a special style of writing all her own. Her writing has an almost dream-like feel and while it is far from realism it still grabs you and takes hold through the pages. This is a great book for anyone looking for an epic adventure or any fans of The Odyssey.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Alex & Me tells the story of Dr. Pepperberg's personal relationship with an African Grey Parrot named Alex (for Avian Language Experiment). She bought him from a pet shop and spent 30 years working with him, disproving assumptions about animal intelligence and behavior.
I am fascinated by Alex and how he changed the way humans view animal intelligence and learning. It's very sad that he died so young (for a parrot), and also that Pepperberg has to constantly scramble for funds to continue her work. This book is filled with sweet, funny, and astounding anecdotes about Alex that don't "prove" anything scientifically but are nonetheless fascinating and thought provoking.
As the owner of an African Grey Parrot, a couple of things she said surprised me. On page 63, she writes “It turned out that beginning training with ‘paper’ was an extremely bad choice, because it is very hard to make a ‘puh’ sound if you don’t have lips.” My parrot Ascar’s favorite word is “popcorn” and he also says “pretty” and parrot”. I don't know how he does it, but evidently the p sound was harder for Alex.
On page 156, she talks about taking Alex home, where he saw an owl and became terrified. My parrot once sat about five feet from a Cooper’s Hawk on a fence in our backyard and he couldn’t have been less interested, although they made eye contact.
In any event, if you are interested in parrots or bird or other animal intelligence, I recommend both Alex & Me and The Alex Studies.